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Thursday, September 23, 2004

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 House Republicans trample rights of nonreligious and religious minorities

The US House of Representatives today passed a bill that would prevent all federal courts, including the US Supreme Court, from hearing cases pertaining to the interpretation of the Pledge of Allegiance, or the validity under the Constitution of the Pledge. The bill's proponents seek to deny access to the federal courts to many groups who've already expressed First Amendment concerns about the Pledge of Allegiance.

Make no mistake: this is a Republican bone thrown from its right wing to its far-right wing. The stranglehold that the fundies have on the ReTHUGlican party is remarkable. I am so frustrated by their overwhelming disregard for the long held American legal principles of due process and separation of powers. If this bill becomes law, it will slam federal courthouse doors in the face of Humanists and Americans of minority faiths.

In rejecting an amendment to the bill that was proposed to protect those who are coerced into reciting the Pledge, Congress exposes the bill for what it is: the imposition of religious ideology. The Pledge Protection Act would set a dangerous precedent by stripping federal courts of judicial independence and paving the way to prevent federal judges from ruling on other controversial social issues from abortion and gun control to school vouchers and school prayer.

Restricting the federal courts' ability to protect First Amendment rights severely undermines the American judicial system. Federal courts are uniquely prepared to interpret federal constitutional concerns and to serve as a check on the constitutionality of actions by the Congress and the Executive branch. Congress should not disrupt the balance of power intended by our Founders.

If you aren't outraged, you haven't been paying attention.

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